If you thought your summer was tough battling the sticky city heat, you'll find escape in the
best YA novels of July.
There's two teenage girls, in two separate books, who are fighting for their survival across the cold, remote wilderness. Another is quite literally alone in the universe, the only person still living on a spaceship hurtling away from Earth. Then there's Justina Chen's protagonist, who is allergic to sunlight (even having to hide from the glare of her iPhone). Oh, and then there's the young intern who finds an entire planet decimated by a mysterious plague. It really puts the lack of air conditioning into context, doesn't it?
By some coincidence or young adult author hive mind, there are several books this month set in space or aboard spaceships. There's Lauren James' aforementioned titular "loneliest girl in the universe" whose parents died, leaving her alone on a spaceship. And there's the crew of the
Odyssey in Erin Bowman's Contagion, who are seeking the cause of a deadly illness. And there's the cyborg-like soldiers of Hullmetal Girls, who have to overcome class divides to earn a position aboard the Fleet.
Back on Earth, there's Kara Thomas' latest thriller,
The Cheerleaders. Grace and Fury, a story in the vein of The Handmaid's Tale, where women have no rights and two sisters struggle to survive. And no matter how many times you've seen Disney's The Little Mermaid, you've never heard the villain's story quite like in this swapped-POV re-telling, The Sea Witch.
Find a nice, air-conditioned library or local bookstore and get started reading this list of the best YA novels of July:
'The Loneliest Girl in the Universe' by Lauren James (July 3; HarperTeen)
Romy Silvers is alone in the universe. She lived with her parents on the spaceship
Infinity, speeding away from Earth, until they both died and left her completely isolated. The only person whose voice she even hears is her therapist on Earth who leaves her messages. So, when NASA alerts Romy that its sending the Eternity ship to connect with hers, she is ecstatic, and she begins communicating with the young captain of the ship, J. But as Eternity gets closer, its arrival starts to feel more ominous and she starts to become haunted by the memories of what happened to her parents. This slow-burning psychological thriller has a killer twist that will make you gasp. Click here to buy.
'Notes From My Captivity' by Kathy Parks (July 10; Katherine Tegan Books)
What starts out as a survival story turns into something much different in Kathy Parks'
Notes From My Captivity. Wannabe journalist Adrienne follows her (in her eyes) foolishly optimistic step-father Dan to the Siberian wilderness, chasing the legend of a family living out there in the frigid winters alone. Adrienne wants to debunk her stepfather and make her late father, who was killed by a drunk driver, proud. But when Adrienne is suddenly trapped without her step-father or guides, she is captured and held by the family she thought was a myth. Things, however, are not always as they seem. Click here to buy.
'I'm Not Missing' by Carrie Fountain (July 10; Flatiron Books)
After her mother left to join a religious cult, Miranda has found home in her friendship with Syd, who also has an absentee mother. So Miranda feels abandoned again when Syd runs away in the middle of their senior year. All that Syd left was a note for Nick, the guy who stood up Miranda on prom night and broke her heart. As Miranda tries to track down her friend, she also becomes close with Nick and discovers the truth about what happened before prom. Carrie Fountain's YA novel is part-plot-twisty thriller, part-sweet romance, and perfect for summer reading.
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'The Brink of Darkness' by Jeff Giles (July 10; Bloomsbury)
The Edge of Everything, Zoe and X began a romance that spanned the bounds of earth and hell. Now, in the sequel, the star-crossed lovers must find a way to save Zoe's family and free X from the captivity of the lords' of the Lowlands. Click here to buy.
'Hullmetal Girls' by Emily Skrutskie (July 17; Delacorte)
Like a more diverse
Battlestar Galactica, in Hullmetal Girls the crew of the space Fleet are searching for a new place to build a home. Aisha Un-Haad joins as a Scela, a type of cyborg soldier protecting the Fleet from rebellion, because her measly janitor's salary can't fund her brother's treatment from the plague. Key Tanaka wakes up a Scela, but she can't remember why she would leave her life of high-class privilege for the position. As all the new recruits vie for a permanent position, Aisha and Key, two women of color from very different class stratospheres, must find a way to work together. Click here to buy.
'Contagion' by Erin Bowman (July 24; HarperTeen)
Keep the lights on for Erin Bowman's page-turning, sci-fi horror novel, the first in a planned duology. A storm forces drilling conglomerate intern Althea Sadik her microbiologist boss to board the
Odyssey. The ship is already on its way to distant planet Achlys to respond to a distress call from a drilling team. When they arrive, everyone on Achlys is dead. Despite a message warning them to abandon the mission, the crew of the Odyssey start the search and rescue, and what they find is truly horrific. Click here to buy.
'I Am Still Alive' by Kate Alice Marshall (July 24; Viking Books for Young Readers)
Hatchet was your favorite book in grade school, but you wish it was filled with much more girl power, then I Am Still Alive is the book you've been waiting for. After becoming injured in a car accident that killed her mother, Jess was forced to move in with her estranged, survivalist father in his cabin in the remote Canadian wilderness. But when someone from her dad's past finds them and kills her father, burning down the cabin, Jess is left with just her father's dog alone in the freezing wild. Despite her physical limitations, she uses her wits and ingenuity to fight for survival, and maybe even revenge. Click here to buy.
'Lovely, Dark, and Deep' by Justina Chen (July 31; Arthur A. Levine Books)
After returning home from a trip abroad, Viola Li developed an allergy to sunlight, essentially destroying her dreams of becoming a globe-trotting journalist. Now, under her parents' direction, she is restricted from any and all light that could harm her, even TV and phone screens. The only glimmer of light in her life is a new relationship with Josh, who encourages her to take more chances and life her life—intensifying the conflict with her very protective parents. Amid all the darkness, Justina Chen's story is full of hope, even for those living with a chronic illness.
Click here to buy.
'The Cheerleaders' by Kara Thomas (July 31; Delacorte Press)
Five years ago, five women on the Sunnybrook cheerleading squad were killed, in three separate incidents — two in a car crash, two murdered by the man next door (who a police officer killed before they got answers, and one by suicide. That last girl — that was Monica's sister, and her stepfather was the officer who shot the murderer. Now, Monica isn't sure these these five deaths were coincidences. And she believes the people of Sunnybrook know a lot more than they're admitting. You might need your pen and paper to track the suspicious characters (like any good detective), but if you like a little mystery in your summer, you'll fall for this small-town whodunit by dark YA writer Kara Thomas.
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'Grace and Fury' by Tracy Banghart (July 31; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Her whole life, Serina was groomed to become a Grace — in essence, a subordinate trophy wife to the heir to the throne. In a world where women have no rights, a future as a Grace is one of the best a woman can hope for. However, instead of Serina, her rebellious younger sister Nomi catches the heirs eye and is selected as a Grace. In turn, now Serina takes responsibility for some of Nomi's wrongdoings and is sent to a dangerous prison on a volcanic island where she must fight to the death to survive. Nomi knows that the only way to save her sister is to assume her role and use her limited influence to free her. Described as
The Handmaid's Tale meets The Bachelor, Grace and Fury is fast-paced, feminist, and a perfect summer read. Click here to buy.
'Sea Witch' by Sarah Henning (July 31; Katherine Tegan Books)
Come on, everyone's favorite Disney villain is Ursula, right? Well the sea witch from the original Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale finally gets her say in
Sea Witch, a re-telling of The Little Mermaid from the other point of view. Poor fisherman's daughter Evie is close friends with the crown price, whom she calls Nik. The two lost their best friend Anna to the sea years back, but Evie swears she spots Anna, or an Anna lookalike, rescuing Nik from drowning. And maybe she's a mermaid? Fairy tale lovers, you know this one is for you. Click here to buy.